I couldn’t help but notice that in this modern day and age public insfrastructure has no ramps for the disabled.
Except for standard hospitals, I do not think Nigerians are building with the disabled in mind. We build our churches and make the entrances high with steps so that those who are on wheelchairs or who use crutches will find it difficult to get in. Churches, schools, houses, roads, bridges etc, we build excluding those who are disabled in different ways.
I once watched a man who was walking with the help of a clutch climb a pedestrian bridge. It was a painful thing to watch. He kept on struggling to get to the next step until another man, I guess disturbed by the situation, offered to help him to get up on the bridge.
Another time it was a woman on a wheelchair, her son had to carry her up, while someone else brought up the chair. I have also seen completely paralysed people crawling along the road and on pedestrian bridges, dragging their bodies up the stairs and every time I want to cry. This is inhumane!
Can you imagine a blind person walking alone in Lagos?
There is just no space for people with disabilities in our society. This is why families who have children with special needs often take them to the village to ‘hide’ them. It is very few families who embrace their children and learn to understand the needs of the child. There are young children who should be in school but are out on the streets begging for alms because of a disability. Are they going to beg all their lives? There is so much Nigeria can do for them to make them important to the society from getting an education to learning a trade. No matter the level of the disability there is something the person can offer to the society and to themselves. But no, once a person has any little issue, discard, next!
One time, on a work day, I saw a mentally ill man walking around in his birthday suit, and on the other side of the road were school children, little children just looking at his nakedness while he muttered to himself, stopping at intervals to pick up stuff from the ground. I wanted to scold the children to turn away and stop watching. I mean, are children supposed to see the nakedness of full grown adults wandering along the road? Isn’t it traumatizing in a way?
I had to remind myself that it may actually not be the first time they were seeing him naked, or he wasn’t the only one they have seen. Our society allows mentally ill people roam the street without any plan to care for them.
There are no plans to care for people, no plans for inclusion of those who are disabled, or those who are mentally ill into the society in any way. We build our houses, schools, churches, hospitals without thoughts of them in mind. It is almost as if they don’t exist. We must learn to include everyone while planning for the society. Let us start with ourselves before we get to the government. Let us build churches and make entrances for those who cannot walk on their twos, build schools and make provision for children with disabilities. Little drops in various sectors and we will get there.